ATN universities urge long-term action plan for post-school education

15 September 2022

[13 September | the Australian | Tim Dodd]

Australia’s technology universities have called on the Albanese government to sidestep current constraints on spending with a “long-term and progressive plan of action” to improve post-school education.

The Australian Technology Network, representing six universities, said the government should build on top of the achievements of this month’s Jobs and Skills Summit and use its planned universities accords to create partnerships for post-school education that take in university staff, unions, industry, businesses, students, parents, and political and policy leaders.

In a pre-budget policy statement the ATN said the universities accord, which was a Labor election promise, was a “once in a lifetime opportunity to shape post-school education, enterprise and innovation for future generations and ensure Australia’s future success”.

It said the plan should span this year’s October 25 federal budget “and the ones to follow in this term of government and the next”.

“The current economic and fiscal constraints make this forward thinking even more important,” the ATN said.

ATN executive director Luke Sheehy said that the group had long believed it was time for a substantial review of post-school education.

“It’s more than a decade since the Bradley Review (of higher education) and a very long time since the Kangan Report (on TAFE) of the 1970s,” he said.

The ATN – whose member universities are Curtin, Deakin, RMIT, Newcastle, UniSA and UTS – named four key themes for long term change. These are:

• Creating opportunity for people and skilling Australia.

• Investing in our own ideas, innovations and capabilities.

• Leadership in global education, skills and knowledge.

• Contribution to the Australian community, national security and sovereign capability.

The group called measures to ensure that growth areas such as healthcare, manufacturing and defence were not limited by skill shortages and for adoption of “flexible, adaptive and innovative education options” so people can continue their education and training through their lives.

“These options will need to include high-value shorter courses which are recognised and transferable with a plan to create enduring skills passports, industry-led approaches that allow businesses to co-design and access timely skills solutions, and planning the skills development of the next generation through individual skills accounts,” the policy statement said.

It also called on the Albanese government to “fully fund” the Morrison government’s research commercialisation plan, including the trailblazer initiatives which brought together universities and industry in priority areas. “After several years of reforms and revenue downturns, we need security of (research) funding in order to continue our vital work,” it said.